Wednesday, June 29, 2011

oh how my garden grows

Tonight Lacy and I are having a roommate dinner. Caesar salad complete with THREE kinds of my garden lettuce. Thank you, Seeds of Change, for those awesome free seed packets! I'm so excited to eat it--it's super satisfying to eat something you've watched grow. I love it. My basil is smelling awesome. And everything else is looking great, too, but nothing ready to harvest. I think I started a bit late. But it'll be fine.

Oh, and the landscapers are putting GRASS down in the backyard. Seriously?! Yessss. This summer is already awesome but just got better. Waiting for Grease and West Side Story to play free in the park. Coming soon!

I'm going north for the 4th. I probably won't see fireworks because i'll be driving back on the night of the 4th. Maybe I'll pull off and watch some in unknown small town Wisconsin. That sounds kinda nice. Happy holiday weekend, everyone!

[and since it's a holiday weekend and you just might have some extra time, i'll tack this on]

If you find yourself in a place in life similar to mine (twenty-something, curious about a career-path, uncertain about the future, learning hard, frustrating, but good lessons about what it means to support yourself or others while also stewarding well, and looking at the world out in front of you and yourself here in it wondering where you should be and what you should be doing...) you might enjoy reading this article. I don't know a lot about Jon Foreman but I like his solo stuff quite a lot, for the most part. He's one "contemporary Christian artist" whose lyrics remain poignant, thought-provoking, and truthful without losing on quality. I stumbled across this article he wrote about re-appropriating the phrase "making a living." Really, anyone would benefit from reading it. But especially, perhaps, us who are pretty fresh out of college with the future rather "dim" (and i know you are out there because I've talked with quite a lot of you recently and we're all talking similar talk :)). It's a remarkable time of life in a lot of ways because there's a lot of forced trusting. All of life requires that we trust God but certain experiences (undoubtedly) create that "need" all the more. Anyhow, enough talk. Go ahead and read the article. I'm sure at least parts of it will resonate with you. Don't get turned off by some of the Christian cliche. I know, it gets to me too, but maybe we need to let it go sometimes...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

on perspective

Usually I park in the parking garage when I pick the kids up from school. Yesterday there was a huge open spot right there on the street (never happens). So instead of entering the pick-up area from the north side of the building, I came at it from the south. Which meant I stood at the other end of the group of mom's. It's weird to stand in a new place once you've stood in an old one for so long. I felt awkward and out of place. From where I usually stand, I know just where all the other moms/nannys are going to be waiting for their kids; who the friends are; who the talkers are; who the one's are who don't say anything; who show up late, etc...I couldn't do all that yesterday. It was weird. And I know it's a simple example but it made me think about how sometimes our perspective needs to change--needs some "shaking up." I think sometimes maybe we stand in the same place too long; think things over too much, too often; exhaust our own understanding of something and need to be moved to see things differently.

But maybe this is just me? Maybe ya'll don't feel like sometimes you give yourself too much thinking credit; too much of the last say on things.

I've been reading Psalm 73 a lot this spring. For various reasons it addresses a lot of things I've been wrestling with, tempted by, learning, etc. And there's a line in there that goes like this, "...But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end" (vv. 16, 17).

I'm not one to say that anytime you're trying to figure out something hard or feel like you need a change of perspective to see rightly, you should just "go into the house of God" and it will all become clear. Not exactly, anyway. I don't appreciate (in myself or in others) when God and faith are used like a magic potion/equation. Plug in the proper variables and solve for X. I know that it isn't that simple. But I think I'm also beginning to learn and remember that what IS found (pretty much immediately) when you enter the place and presence of God, is the truth of who He is. This means there is patience, compassion, and kindness there. There is faithfulness and trustworthiness. This means that there is no trickery or manipulation. This means He desires our understanding of His working in the world for the sake of relationship with Him--but on His terms, not ours, which can get us frustrated sometimes, eh? We usually think we know the best way to do things. At least that's how I am.

[Side note: last night Lace and I rode our bikes out along the lake shore. It was absolutely beautiful. That is also an example of the kind of perspective-giving moments I need. The perspective of big sky and horizon; the perspective of space to think and ask and be. What fort of perspective-giving moments do you need?]

I have another verse written on a piece of birch bark that hangs by my desk: "For God is working in you, giving you the power to do what pleases Him" (Phil 2:13). Sometimes my own perspective gets so convoluted and tangled up and I can hardly distinguish what's true. Entering into relationship with God--faith, dependence, reliance--provides me with a deep-down calm, even when I don't understand things. Even when I get frustrated because on my own I don't have the power to do what pleases Him but I want to...that place is surrender; entrusting; giving up my old place of perspective for a new, awkward, and uncomfortable place of perspective. It's grace, I tell you.

I'm finding that His place of perspective is a lot less cluttered than mine. In mine, thoughts are always racing and pushing and talking. In His, there is rest. There is even quiet. "He leads me beside quiet waters"? "He restores my soul"? My heart isn't without thoughts or questions in His place of perspective, but there is peace. There's always more to see, learn, understand, or wonder. I guess I feel like I live to know that it is enough that I don't know things but that I can entrust those "don't knows" to the trustworthy one. I count it a gift that I find Him trustworthy. I know people for whom life has stolen that gift and they live in such deep, dark doubt. Please, God, restore our gift of faith.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

because i'm friends with a nine-year-old who thinks she's fat

I just read Sarah's letter to her girls about the lies we women hear/believe about beauty in this mixed-up world. I appreciate her thoughts--the perspective of a mother, which is different than mine and helpful to hear, but the perspective of a woman, which I identify with right away. I guess it hits close(r) to home because I've had some of these conversations with the girl of the family I nanny for--a beautiful, fun, quirky, energetic ten (almost eleven!) year-old, who has been thinking on these things for years already. The world is in front of her, so big and so ready, and she worries about her weight, how she looks, and (because it always follows) what people think of her. I'm not a mom--I'm not her mom--but I feel like it inside sometimes. Maybe I feel more like a protective older sister...

Andrea, I've gained weight this week (the girl is an absolute twig). Andrea, I've decided I'm not going to eat sweets anymore, so I don't get fat. I need to lose weight. Andrea, I just read this book about a girl with an eating disorder. Andrea, what's it called when a girl throws up her food?

You see, I have friends who have spent years wrestling with eating (not eating) and exercise addictions. Any pain I have experienced with and as a result has been in the praying for, witnessing, and living alongside some of these friends. I've never wrestled in some of the more "severe" physical ways with the lies but, let me tell you, I've lived with them and wrestled them mind, soul, spirit, emotion. I don't want this to be a sob post about "how hard it is to be a girl" or "how difficult the lies of the culture are to withstand." I know that men battle their own set of lies. Really, lies are lies and they all target the same thing: how we view and understand our inherent dignity, issues of worth, our invested value, and our identity. It's hard and painful and downright exhausting at times.

It is what it is in the sense that the lies aren't going away anytime soon. We can get paralyzed under the "weight" of it all or buck up a bit, chill out, accept the fact that this is how things are going to be, and learn to live different than they say, even when it's hard. I once talked with a friend about a similar subject and he said something about not wanting to live the way the world expects us to live. Exactly. I think that's called living under the recognition that God is redeeming things and provides a better, richer, more fulfilling way of living with and understanding ourselves (and the world). The world will continue to bombard us. Heck, the kids are worried younger and younger, aren't they? I don't remember when I first felt the "seriousness" of these lies about body image and beauty but it was not when I was nine/ten years old. Goodness gracious, I was bruise-shinned gallivanting through the mountains of Mexico, chasing donkeys with my brother, making forts in manzanilla bushes in Southern Arizona, and building fires in tin cans to cook food for our flight from the Nazi concentration camps. A better use of my time, if you ask me. But this has a lot to do with how and where I was raised, as well as a number of other factors that are for another time and conversation. The point is, kids face the lies early and it's been sad for me to see.

I get it. I know, the world will keep telling me that I need skinnier thighs and bigger boobs if I ever want to get a guy or feel truly valued. Sometimes the lies are loud and it is a sincere struggle not to believe them. Other days, I just think (probably immature but whatever), "F--- you, world, there is more to stand for and more to live by!" And I believe it, with all my heart. I believe it for S who is not fat and does not need to lose weight and who, I pray, will not buy into all that those gossip magazines tell her is important (even though she and her friends started a gossip girls club at school). Seriously. There is so much more to live for.

I don't really know why I'm writing all this out...I think because I've learned some hard things this year about what it means to be true to the beautiful things of life instead of getting sucked into what the world says is valuable. I've battled some pretty hard lies about money and beauty and success and purpose and value...etc., etc., etc. I suppose that's part of growing up and part of messing up and trying again. And I've seen this sweet, sweet girl growing up who I have come to love...and she is up against a world that doesn't want to celebrate her unique beauty. It wants to fit her into a mold and that is oh so detestable to me. How pathetic to take the wide and creative beauty of this world and cut, press, and push it into a mold--a box--that someone has said is "it." No, no. That's not where it is at. Look around you. We are all a fairly average group of people, eh? I would take the remarkably average ones over the cookie-cutter 'they've got it' ones any day.

There is, inherent in each of us (also the ones that succumb to the cookie-cutter image), a beauty that the world has failed to define. Because maybe we can't define it.

It's sort of like how i can't describe or define just why it is that i have to catch my breathe every time I am on the shores of Lake Superior looking out. Yeah, it's something like that. We need to catch a vision of that understanding of beauty and run with it. Our lives will be freer and richer, guaranteed.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Tonight i saw fireflies. Granted, it wasn't in a field or a forest but it was in a beautiful back-street neighborhood and they were dancing their beautiful bodies of light across the front yards in that always and forever magical way. I was so happy.

Today was lovely. I got up and went to the laundromat and ran errands with lacy. Then i went for a bike ride by myself along the lake shore. It was glorious. 76 and sunny and hundreds of sailboats out of the harbor bouncing on open water. The sun was so bright i had to close my eyes as i sat there on the edge looking out. I soaked up sun today. no rain; no grey; just sun. Yes, i know: glorious. It felt so good to ride. I wanted to ride and ride and leave the city behind--find some open road and big wide fields. Anyway, it calmed me. And recharged me. I thought of dad (because i always do when i bike) and of the time he quoted Eric Liddell, saying that when he (dad) bikes he "feels God's pleasure."

I went home and showered and then had a lovely phone chat with Mel. It was so good to hear her voice and talk life-stuff. I'm grateful for good friends :)

THEN, I got to see Wendy! She leaves for Nepal in three weeks and will be gone for the year. I'm so excited for her--she'll be teaching. I'm so glad I got to see her before she leaves. I went over to where she's staying for the weekend and we had tacos together and then walked to an ice cream shop in Wicker Park that makes the ice cream in front of you with mixers and dry ice. Crazy. We went back to the house and watched Mexico vs. US (Gold Cup). Mexico won, 4-2. I hardly knew who to cheer for. I get kind of patriotic for Mexico. It was super fun. Soccer is way more fun to watch than football, can I just say it? Seriously. The game isn't stopped every two seconds, for one thing. And I feel like the athletes are more...athletic? Am I allowed to say that?

Today was a good day. It reminded me of things I love and things that make me feel alive. Do the things that make you feel alive, k? I've been thinking about the idea of "taking charge of life." Not in a cavalier, cocky sort of way. And not in a way that strips us of faith or the difficult and freeing task of trusting to God each new day. No, I mean taking charge in the sense of choosing and pursuing things that make us alive; that make us healthier, freer people. Sometimes we get confused about what is good and right and most healthy/freeing. But we really ought not ever give up because finding life in that way is what makes life so beautiful and it's journey so rewarding.

There's a lot on my heart these days. Full and almost bursting. Wish I could share all of it with you :)

You might get bored.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

my mind won't sleep

I've been so tired lately and now it's dark and quiet out but I find myself unable to sleep. Bother.

Perhaps it is the million thoughts buzzing around in my head that disallow sleep. For example, the thought of Mariah getting on that plane tomorrow afternoon; our having to say goodbye.
Or maybe it's this pamphlet on my desk with the big, bold headline, "teach English abroad" and i'm almost saved up for the course. I'd like it if my mind would let me sleep now. Maybe I'll try again...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Read This

over here. it was good for me to hear/read tonight. hope you appreciate it, too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I can hear wind and rain out the window. I love that. So long as the tree branches stay attached to the trees and don't snap off onto my car (i have seen a record number of snapped tree branches due to these rainstorms...and a few on cars...please God, noooo).

The days have been so very "summer." I can't really describe it to you, I just hope you know what I mean. You know, evening air thick and humid, sunshine across the kitchen floor, country music (with the windows rolled down, duh), kids waking up from naps all hot and sweaty, popsicles, a glass of white wine...
The only thing I haven't seen yet are fireflies. I didn't grow up around them so I don't actually know if (maybe) they come out later in the summer...? I do know we don't see many in the city, which is a real shame. I love them. A whole lot.

I've found myself on my knees a lot lately. Literally and figuratively. Prayer has been a daily must and I guess when you're down wiping up puppy pee, cat vomit, stooped low to talk to a little one about why it is not okay to hit, scream, scratch, or stomp, or down on all fours cleaning up a spill, the kneeling part comes easy. But then there's my heart and getting it to a place of love, compassion, kindness, and care in the midst of all the sounds, smells, and frustrations of the day(s). It isn't always difficult--I really love these kids--but it can be. Really. Patience is a requirement. Love is patient, that's what I keep remembering. But it seems we're trained in impatience, doesn't it? Faster/shorter lines, instant foods, daily schedules and appointments to keep. But life-lessons don't always follow a schedule and maturity isn't met by appointment only. I am learning this.

I have seen in myself lately lots that needs changing. I've also seen lots that needs celebrating and maybe even a little bit of "freeing." I believe that sometimes we get to places in life and we find we've withheld where we shouldn't have; kept our mouths shut or our priorities stunted when we should have made a different decision.

A toast (raising my glass of white wine, MmMmmm): to us! To kneeling every day to say in humility and need, "I need changing. But I am also one of God's beautiful ones--His made-after-his-own-likeness ones; and that needs celebrating."

Life is beautiful. It's also short. Sometimes I forget this. It's a tender balance to live with this in mind in healthy ways--I've swung in both directions. I would like to be more in the middle.

I should go to bed. This pooped nanny has been short on sleep, i think...

Monday, June 20, 2011

friends and a wedding

Sarah is married and the days have been sweet.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

missing these two munchkins

talk about faces of summer, huh?!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

thoughts from a stuffy head

I apologize ahead of time if these thoughts are muffled and awkward. I got hit hard with a head cold last night and have been wrestling with sinus pressure and a ridiculously stuffy left nostril all day. uugh, frustrating. But through the stuffiness I remembered that tomorrow is Pentacost Sunday. I think I remembered because I was sitting here earlier reflecting on "life" these days--and all that I am thinking through and facing right now (which feels like a lot)--only able to manage a rather pathetic cry, "Please God, I'm really needing you." Sometimes we just have to say "I don't know, Lord." And, since I've said that a lot lately, I'm beginning to see it as an act of trust. Somehow in all of the "I-don't know's" of life right now, God remains trustworthy. I guess I realized yesterday what a gift this is in the midst of a semester (yes, I can't help but still think in semesters) that has taken a lot out of me without (it has seemed) giving much back.

God steps in with his small the fact that I can still find him trustworthy despite uncertain circumstances that threaten to change my mind about that. This is grace.

So tomorrow is Pentacost and I am well aware (again) of how much I need the Spirit. I have been making quiet requests for healing and reorientation over the past few weeks because I know I need his help. And tonight it comes to a head as I think about tomorrow and the "coming." Holy Spirit, come. Walter Brueggemann has written "so blow this day, wind//blow here and there, power//blow even us, force//rush us beyond ourselves//rush us beyond our hopes//rush us beyond our fears, until we enact your newness in the world//come, come spirit. Amen."

In my own words tonight I wrote in my journal "Come to me; come on us. Fill us again with strength for the pilgrimage. I need courage, Lord. Courage to believe (and live) truth in a world so mixed up. I need strength to stand for something large and lasting. I need discipline to hold fast to what is good and right. Protect us from unbelief and cynicism. Keep me fresh--I've been feeling spoiled and soiled....we worship what we think about. Redirect and reorient my thoughts."

You see (if we're honest), over and over again we have to commit our way(s) to the Lord. We are not successful gods. We try to be--controlling, mastering, manipulating, achieving--but we finally weary of it. We falter and fail and freedom is found again in grace--in God who is mysteriously three in one and so is, thankfully, Spirit in us, too. Living with us.

There is freedom in grace. Grace is to be new and healed and forgiven and whole and loved. Grace is journey and process. It is proactive and intentional not apathetic. It transforms (all things new). Grace travels with us, it doesn't just stop for a brief visit. It is a presence, I believe. Grace is not to be perfect here and now (I'm learning), it is to be free here and now. But, freedom towards a goal and a hope, not just freedom for freedom's sake. These are not always easy things to learn, but they enrich the way we live.

Sometimes I get distracted from all of this. I really do. So Spirit, remind us. Focus us anew. Reorient us. Redirect us. Come, come Spirit.

Friday, June 10, 2011

One For Sorrow

I love this song...

Monday, June 06, 2011

under my skin

"I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore...
I hear it in the deep heart's core." -W.B. Yeats

"Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake." -Wallace Stevens

I know I've said it before and perhaps you'll tire of hearing it...I love Lake Superior. It is absolutely my favorite body of water thus far discovered, explored, and enjoyed in my life. Each and every time I go back to sit on the shore, pick through rocks, walk the long beaches, catch my breath over the wonder of it all...I am reminded, again, how much "a part" of me it is. It does my soul good to visit it, ya know? Maybe you have a place like it...

Well, we're back. I could tell a lot of stories (we traveled through 3 states following Lake Superior's shoreline...yeah, pretty amazing). Maybe I will tell some, eventually. For now--a few pictures and the memories are enough. It was a fantastic week exploring beautiful country with a most wonderful friend. It was pretty much needed in every way, right down to sand between our toes and s'mores in our bellies :) It felt good to shed the city a bit--it felt really good. Mariah will be leaving the city in three weeks. I shouldn't get all sappy on here, it won't help matters any :) Sigh. It's going to be different and it will be hard and I will miss her. A lot. But change is good, too, and God has lots in store for all of us, even if we're a bit uncertain of it all right now.

Tonight the three of us spent the evening in Millennium Park listening to Iron and Wine play live. We had a picnic dinner, drank wine, laughed together...and it was fabulous, absolutely fabulous. We don't take these times for granted. They are gifted times, I know it, and I am deeply thankful.